The Oak and the Fir Tree: A Christmas Legend

Boniface felling the Donar Oak. Ill.: Heinrich Maria von Hess (1834)

There are many stories of how the fir tree came to symbolize Christmas. Here is one of them:

Saint Boniface (675-754) was born in England, but traveled to what is today Germany to convert the local pagan tribes to Christianity. In 723 or 724, frustrated by the recent converts continued veneration of a giant oak, called Donar’s oak (or Thor’s oak), where they kept carrying out sacrifices, he took up his axe and felled the monstrous tree with one mighty blow. As the tree fell, a beautiful fir tree sprang from its center. 

This tree, Saint Boniface told the people, was a holy tree, the tree of the Christ Child, and its evergreen branches, pointing to heaven, symbolized the promise of eternal life. He then instructed the people to carry a fir tree from the wilderness into their homes at Christmas, surrounding it with gifts as symbols of love and kindness. Thus, the Christmas tree was born.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “The Oak and the Fir Tree: A Christmas Legend

  1. When I cut down an oak tree, the stump is more likely to get overgrown with poison oak.

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